Because I can/Rachel Cohen Yeshurun

By Rachel Cohen Yeshurun

Women of the Wall Board of Directors, Member

I don’t know how difficult it will be for Sephardi Jews to get their Spanish citizenship, but I can tell you a thing or two about getting British citizenship based on ancestry.  It was a long, expensive and frustrating process involving complicated instructions, endless forms and the ceremonial presentation of notarized certifications of life cycle events.

Subsequently, as I was proudly showing off my shiny new burgundy and gold passport on a visit to London, one of my cousins asked the same question that so many had asked before and indeed I had asked myself: “Why go through all that bother to get a passport that you don’t really need?”

Then my Aunt Judith, with her sharp insight honed on years of representing women battling ugly divorce cases, cut in with a terse but brilliant answer:  “Because she can!”

Yes! That was it. Because I can. When there is no reason to not do something, you don’t always need a deep and well thought out reason to charge ahead.

I now had a ready-made answer, not just for why I should get a third citizenship, but also for a whole slew of other activities that I had yet to even think about doing. I can only begin to tell you the mileage I have gotten out of those three words!

Like why get up at 5am every Rosh Hodesh to join a women’s prayer group at the Western Wall when I faced the possibility – or at times the probability – of violence or arrest?

Because I can! Because I know how to pray, because I believe in the cause, because I’m a morning person, because I live a half hour drive away from the Kotel, because my kids can get themselves out to school by themselves, because I’m strong enough to shrug off the verbal abuse… In short – because I can!

With my typical Orthodox upbringing and the social constraints involved, it did not even enter my mind until just a few years ago, that I could chant Torah or the book of Esther for a congregation. But I found out that I could – I can, and my community needs a reader.  Sometimes you are the right person, at the right time, in the right place and there is a need that you can fill. If you can, then you have to. So here I am, having just chanted the book of Esther on Purim a few days ago– for the 4th year in a row!

About a half a year ago, a friend at work introduced me to running – long distance running that is. At first, my mantra was not such a great help.  I couldn’t. Running 100 meters left me gasping for breath.  Just walking up a hill would set my heart racing. I was a couch potato and didn’t see any reason to break into a sweat.

But then I realized that I may not be able to run ten kilometres, yet, but I can train. I can get up early in the morning. I have a nice trail running trail near my home in Ma’aleh Adumim. I have an untiring four-legged running partner.  My joints and muscles still work! I have it all. And I had a goal – to form the Women of the Wall running team and lead a group of runners in the 10K race in the Jerusalem marathon.

So I started to run.  First it was for 60 seconds and then 90 seconds and over the course of a few months I have gotten up to running for over an hour! The hills are still hard and I might win the medal for the slowest runner, but as all my friends know, Women of the Wall is a cause that gets me going -in more ways than one! And now I am running the 10K in the Jerusalem Marathon and I am heading up Women of the Wall’s Marathon Team, because I can!

On March 21, 2014 at 10 AM I will stand at the starting line of the Jerusalem Marathon with my brothers and sisters. We will know that we can do this and we will know why: for a great cause, Women of the Wall and this wonderful holy city, Jerusalem!

Please stand with us by getting involved! Join Women of the Wall, cheer us on at the Marathon and donate to sponsor my run (if you can!) Here is my donations page:

Please pray for the health of my aunt Yehudit bat Zlata, a sharp wit and a great outdoorswoman, may she be granted comfort and a refua shelema.

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